I remember seeing the movie
Grease with some friends from
school during the summer of
1978 — I was 15 years old. This
now iconic movie told an engag-
ing story of teenage love, set
during the late 1950s. The prim
and proper Sandy Olsson,
played by then-pop star Olivia
Newton-John, meets local delin-
quent, Danny Zuko, played
by then-upcoming mega star,
John Travolta. The odds cer-
tainly didn't seem in their
favor. Yet despite the dis-
approval of Sandy's friends,
The Pink Ladies and Danny's
"greaser" buddies, it was their
destiny to be together. Ah, true
teenage love prevailed.
John Hughes mined pure box office gold throughout the 1980s. He attracted countless movie-goers, eager to plunk down big bucks to see his string of such quirky and romantic high school-themed block- busters as The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink — making actress Molly Ringwald THE universally recognized "girl next door." And for Ringwald's numerous onscreen characters in the '80s, true teenage love always prevailed.
In the 1990s there were less compelling and less memorable films such as Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead and Can't Hardly Wait that were also aimed toward high school audiences. Yet despite the diminishing likable qualities of some of the main characters portrayed in these more recent efforts, the underlying message remained the same — true teenage love prevails.
But even the '90s were a long time ago. And given the influence of current music-types, glorifying a lifestyle of blastin' caps in biatches asses while gitin' a 'drank on' all up in 'da club, graphically violent video games, TV shows promoting the awesomeness of teenage pregnancy (Aw, mom — Ashley, Jasmine and Megan got to have babies — why can't I? You NEVER let me have any fun!) and the deep, complex storylines of the seemingly endless slew of Vampire-related epic sagas on book shelves and the big screen, today's younger audience is simply too intellectually advanced to accept the corny teen flicks from the past. They demand more sophisticated stories...
Published in 2008, Suzanne Collins' novel, The Hunger Games, has generated enormous international sales. And according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, the much-anticipated film adaptation of the book took in an astounding $155 million during its March 2012 opening weekend.
An 11-year-old friend of mine recently was elated to purchase a print copy of The Hunger Games at a school book fair, as it has become a recommended, sophisticated read for elementary school-age kids. "It's about children fighting each other to the death on a reality TV show," she enthusiastically reported upon bringing the book home from school. "Hmm," I said to myself.
Amazon Reader Book Review
The setting of a dystopian society wherein children are pitted against one
another to the death in an annual melee ABSOLUTELY BEGS for a
strong moral message. A message of humanity, hope, compassion, the
darkness AND the lightness in each person, forgiveness, sacrifice,
redemption... And the call is completely unanswered. There is no moral
message that comes through, not for the characters and not for the readers.
Ironically, the movie version of The Hunger Games arrived in theaters just two weeks later. All I knew for certain was that the film was receiving rave pre-release reviews and the book maintained an impressive Five Star Amazon review. Given her passion for this story, I offered to take my young friend to see the film on opening weekend.
Directed by Gary Ross, the film stars Jennifer Lawrence as the per- ceived heroine, Katniss, along with Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, Katniss' teenage love interest and fellow rival in this televised, real-life, fight-to-the-death competition. The support cast includes Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, an alcoholic Kurt Cobain look-alike mentor and former Hunger Games champion, Lenny Kravitz as the RuPaul-meets-O.J. Simpson-looking trainer, Cinna (pronounced, Sin-ah), Elizabeth Banks as the talent scout / PR agent, Effie Trinket, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, the go-to guy behind-the-scenes, Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane, the "Ryan Seacrest" of the Hunger Games show, and Donald Sutherland as Coriolanus Snow, the dastardly president of the Rocky Horror-meets-Whoville nation of Panem (also referred to as "The Capitol"). It's a stellar ensemble to be sure.
Anonymous blog post:
The citizens of the Capitol are Lady Gaga's little monster wanabes, as
all the people wear outfits that are crazy and over the top: loud colours,
extreme make up, body modifications and skin coloring. So basically picture
a city full of Lady Gagas walking down the street and you get an idea.
The perceived heroine, Katniss, volunteers to take the place of her younger sister who was initially chosen in the annual lottery to represent Panem's District 12 in the 74th Hunger Games competition. Given her brave and selfless sacrifice, some have come to view the book / film as possessing a (very) deep Christ-like message. However, I believe that my friend quite accurately and succinctly summed up the story days earlier when she told me, "It's about children fighting each other to the death on a reality TV show."
|Woody Harrelson as |
Following the necessary contestant grooming and training process, the grand and glorious competition ensues in an American Idol-meets-Survivor at The Super Bowl atmos- phere.
Now, help me out. Exactly who am I supposed to be cheering for? Is it one of those teens who oddly are vilified for brutally murdering other teens in their fight for survival, or is it one (or both) of the two kids who also are brutally murdering other kids, but who are being portrayed sympathetically because they're just two wacky teenagers in love?
It's bad enough that teenage bullying and school shootings have risen to epidemic proportions in recent years. Now we have a super groovy and sexy saga to further inspire teen violence. Yeah, I know — I'm just the out-of-touch "old guy" who lacks the sophistication required to grasp such a complex message. But I already can see the headlines... Dateline: Anytown, USA — Four teens brutally beaten and savagely murdered in Hunger Games-style attack.
|Hey kids - you too now can |
duplicate the flava of your
fave Hunger Games
* For the scoop on The Hunger Games-related product marketing campaign, see Monica Corcoran's March 23, 2012 New York Times feature.
And I further agree with Roger Ebert in his Chicago Sun-Times opinion that the film ran much too long. In fact, an hour or more of this epic easily could have ended up on the cutting room floor without compromising the complex storyline. Heck, after sitting for nearly two and a half hours, even my young friend was complaining that her "butt had gone numb!"
In sum: The Hunger Games — Well-written? Certainly. Well-cast? Yes. Well-marketed? Double "heck yes" to the 10th power. Rock solid performances? Of course. Visually appealing? Absolutely. So what's the problem?
As we were leaving the theater, my young friend immediately inquired, "Well, what did you think?" I replied, "Uh, what did you think?" "I know it's only about kids killing innocent kids, but I just love it!" she enthusiastically confessed. "I don't know why I love it. I just do!" Hmm, out of the mouths of babes. Well, at least true teenage love still prevailed. "May the odds be forever in our favor."
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